LOS ANGELES : Benefits for Unmarried Partners OKd by Council

In a decision applauded by gay and lesbian organizations, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday joined a growing number of cities in offering health and dental benefits to unmarried domestic partners.

The new benefits, pushed by Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg as a fairness issue, will apply to heterosexual and homosexual partners and are the same benefits offered to the spouses of married employees.

Officials estimate that less than 2% of the city's employees will apply for the benefits, at an estimated cost to the city of $758,000. The annual cost at the Department of Water and Power would be an additional $250,000.

The city already pays $21.6 million on spousal benefits.

Council members Rudy Svorinich Jr., Laura Chick and Hal Bernson voted against the measure, arguing that the financial implications ought to be reviewed further.

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